NARAL Pro-Choice America dedicated its 2009 report, "Who Decides: The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States," to the late George Tiller, the abortionist who was shot and killed last year by a man with a history of mental problems.
Praise for late-term abortionist
"Through his life's work, Dr. George Tiller compassionately and heroically served women from all across the country in order to ensure their right to reproductive-health services," the report says. "Dr. Tiller often spoke of his values – kindness, courtesy, justice, love, and respect – which he brought with him to work everyday."
Tiller, one of the few doctors to perform late-term abortions in the U.S., was acquitted last year in Kansas on charges of performing illegal abortions – late-term procedures that were not medically necessary to save the mother's life. The state was still investigating his abortion practice at the time of his death.
NARAL also dedicated the report to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is praised for authoring a 1994 law limiting pro-life activists’ access to abortion clinics.
Pro-life activists say the report – and the decision to honor Tiller -- makes NARAL’s pro-abortion agenda clear.
"With the pro-abortion movement continuing to decline in this country, they are becoming desperate for heroes," Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, told CNSNews.com. "Any organization that advocates for women's health would be opposed to abortions and all its consequences."
"This is, of course, consistent with their continuing efforts to portray abortionists as heroes," the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life told CNSNews.com, adding that at the same time pro-life activists are portrayed as “dangerous or fanatical.”
Brown described Kennedy as “the most pro-abortion figure in the country’s history.”
Good news for pro-life movement?
But pro-life activists also say the report contains some good news for organizations that have been fighting for the rights of the unborn since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.
Pavone noted that NARAL’s report reflects the dwindling number of abortion providers in the country -- showing that NARAL’s efforts to make abortion an acceptable practice are failing.
"They can't take the stigma out of abortion, even if the legality of it is protected," Pavone said. "As a result, they face a shortage of practitioners."
Pavone said the NARAL report also shows the importance of fighting abortion on the state level. According to NARAL, in 2009, various states enacted 29 pro-life laws compared with 21 "pro-choice" bills.
The report shows states are pro-life by a 2 to 1 margin, based on whether the governor and state legislators are pro-life or pro-abortion.
Praise for Obama's pro-abortion stance
In her introduction to the report, NARAL President Nancy Keenan praises President Barack Obama for his pro-abortion policies and for choosing pro-abortion people to serve in his administration, including NARAL’s former legal counsel, Dawn Johnsen, who has yet to be confirmed for a senior Justice Department post.
The report also hails Obama's appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.
"After eight long years of a White House that relentlessly attacked a woman's right to choose, the pro-choice American majority finally said, 'Enough,' Keenan wrote in the introduction. "And within days of that swearing-in ceremony, President Obama began to undo eight years of damage.
"He repealed the global gag rule, fixed the birth-control price crisis, re-funded the U.N. population program, and took steps to repeal Bush's eleventh-hour attack on reproductive rights, the Federal Refusal Rule," Keenan wrote.
Fifteen states got an A grade from NARAL -- Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
NARAL praised California for passing a law that would make some abortions legal even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. In New Mexico, NARAL touted state funding of family planning for low-income women, including "emergency contraception."
NARAL gave 19 states a failing “F” grade. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
Those states have abortion restrictions including parental and spousal notification and they bar state-funding of abortions. Virginia got low marks for allowing drivers to purchase a "Choose Life" license plate.
NARAL also criticizes federal "anti-choice" legislation, including the ban on partial birth abortion signed into law in 2003 by then-President George W. Bush; and the Stupak-Pitts amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion, which was included in the House-passed health care bill.
The Bush administration's efforts to protect health care professionals from prescribing abortion-inducing drugs or providing abortions or referrals for abortion also is targeted in NARAL’s report.
Crossroads for abortion advocates
"We are at a historic moment," Keenan said of the pro-choice movement in NARAL’s status report.
In light of Tiller’s murder, she says her group stands by abortion providers – “whose numbers are diminishing across the country in the face of restrictive laws and outbreaks of violence at health centers. And we celebrate each policy victory – whether at the state or federal level – as a win for women everywhere.”
Keenan says the “pro-choice” movement cannot take anything for granted. She complained that “opponents of freedom” are trying to “construct roadblocks on our path to progress,” and she uses the recent battle over health care as an example.
She also discusses the need to “act on our values and build the collective strength of America's pro-choice majority for generations to come."